Social status and life satisfaction in context: A comparison between Sweden and the USA


  • Filip Fors Connolly Umeå University
  • Ingemar Johansson Sevä Umeå University



subjective well-being, SWB, social status, cultural orientations, socioeconomic status, sociometric status, status seeking, Sweden, USA


Previous research has shown that social status is an important predictor of life satisfaction (LS). However, researchers have largely focused on the United States, which raises questions about the extent to which the cultural context moderates the relationship between social status and LS. In this paper, we argue that the dominant cultural orientations in society most likely influence the strength of the relationship between social status and LS. Cultural orientations emphasizing competition, achievement and assertiveness should increase the positive influence of social status on LS, while cultural emphases on cooperation, equality and humility instead weakens the effect of status. We therefore analyze the social status-LS relationship in two distinctly different cultural contexts, i.e., Sweden and the United States. Based on theories about national differences in cultural value orientations, we argue that social status should be of more importance in the US compared to in Sweden, since the dominant values and ideals emphasize hierarchy, mastery and masculinity, while the Swedish culture represents an opposite pole by emphasizing egalitarianism, harmony, and femininity. We formulate a number of hypotheses and use survey data to examine the extent to which both social status attainment and social status seeking are related to LS in both countries. The results show that socioeconomic status (income) and sociometric status (perceived respect and admiration in everyday life) have a stronger influence on LS in the US compared to in Sweden. Further, the findings show that social status seeking (low honesty-humility) has a positive relationship to LS in the US, but is negatively related in Sweden. The results also show that gender differences in the relationship between social status and LS are more pronounced in the US compared to in Sweden. We conclude that both the attainment and pursuit of social status are more important for LS in the American cultural context compared to in the Swedish, especially among men. These findings are in line with our expectations, based on the opposing cultural orientations in Sweden and the US. The study contributes to the literature on the relationship between social status and LS, but also to the more general literature on the moderating influence of culture on the predictors of LS.


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Author Biographies

Filip Fors Connolly, Umeå University


Department of Sociology

Ingemar Johansson Sevä, Umeå University


Department of Sociology